(Sports Network) – Two teams brimming with optimism in the wake of recent events square off for an interconference matchup this Sunday in Cleveland, where the Atlanta Falcons set their sights on a fourth consecutive victory in a Week 5 clash with a Browns team expected to have its No. 1 quarterback on the field for the first time in nearly a month.
Atlanta comes into Cleveland Browns Stadium sporting a 3-1 record, with an overtime loss at Pittsburgh in the season-opener the club’s lone blemish. The Falcons have been rock-solid on both sides of the ball during their strong start, while displaying a knack for winning close games as well.
After showing a real gut-check in coming through with a 27-24 overtime triumph on the road over fellow NFC South member and reigning Super Bowl champion New Orleans in Week 3, the Falcons were able to overcome a big early deficit and rally for a 16-14 win over visiting San Francisco this past Sunday.
Atlanta spotted the determined 49ers a 14-0 first-quarter lead before assuming control, with the defense stifling the opposition the rest of the way. Wide receiver Roddy White made a big impact as well, hauling in seven Matt Ryan passes for 104 yards and forcing a game-saving turnover as time was winding down.
Ryan threw what seemed to be a fate-sealing interception with 1:20 left to play and his team still down by a point, but White ran down Niners cornerback Nate Clements and induced a fumble that was recovered by Atlanta lineman Harvey Dahl at the Falcons’ seven-yard line. Ryan than moved the offense into scoring range, with White coming up with three catches on the second-chance drive, to set up Matt Bryant’s go-ahead 43-yard field goal with two seconds remaining.
The fortunate Falcons will now be aiming to record four straight wins for the first time since Oct. 31-Nov. 28, 2004, a year in which Atlanta advanced to the NFC Championship Game under quarterback Michael Vick and head coach Jim L. Mora.
Cleveland has been involved in its share of close calls as well in the early going. The Browns lost their first three contests of 2010 by a combined 12 points before finally breaking out with a hard-earned 23-20 decision over division-rival Cincinnati last Sunday.
The Browns rode the strong legs of Peyton Hillis to the much-needed victory, with the powerful running back churning out 102 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, while a defense that was burned for 346 passing yards on the afternoon came up with a big late stop to preserve Cleveland’s three-point edge.
Cleveland also received an efficient outing from backup quarterback Seneca Wallace, who completed 18-of-30 attempts for 184 yards and a touchdown with one interception in making a third consecutive start for an injured Jake Delhomme, out with a high ankle sprain the veteran suffered in a Week 1 loss at Tampa Bay.
Delhomme was able to return to practice on Wednesday, and all indications are he’ll be back in the huddle for this weekend’s tilt barring any setbacks. The 35-year-old will be facing a very familiar foe, having spent the previous seven seasons as the primary triggerman for Atlanta’s NFC South co-tenants in Carolina before signing with the Browns in March.